Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The 411 on Writers Conference

Well, I’ve now checked another item off my to-do list: be a speaker at a writers conference. I was thrilled to be asked to present the “Writing for Newspapers” class at the East Texas Christian Writers Conference a few weekends ago in Marshall, Texas. It was a great experience and I hope to continue to be involved with this conference for years to come as well as expand to teach at others.

I attended this wonderful conference for the first time last year and gained valuable insight into the publishing world and how to build a solid foundation as a beginning novelist. This year, since I was a presenter, I was not able to attend as many classes as I would have liked, but the ones I did attend were wonderful.

One class I attended was “Secrets My Editors Taught Me” by national bestselling author Lisa Wingate. She is an award-winning journalist, magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker, author of 16 books and one of a select group of authors to find success in both the Christian and mainstream markets.

Bestselling author Lisa Wingate and I with her ACFW Carol Award-winning book, "Dandelion Summer"
It was so nice to meet her and to congratulate her for having the first ACFW Carol Award winning book (Dandelion Summer) to receive a perfect score from the judges. I also got to meet with her for a one-on-one consultation, which provided answers to many of my further publishing and writer platform questions. You can check out her website here for more about her books and writing tips.

Some of what she said in her class:
“Standing out in the publishing industry, we are not to have the mindset of writing something that has not been done. It‘s not impossible, but it's much harder to get a first sell if it's something out of the box (with no defined genre/market).”

“Know your brand and fit in it. Mine is women’s fiction and deals with things like female relationships (friends, mother-daughter, etc.). Your branding helps editors determine advertising, book covers, etc.”

“In your book, you want a character that is relatable and has the right type of language/voice.”

The two-hour pre-conference workshop I attended was taught by Literary agent and author Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency. He answered all sorts of our questions from reasons he rejects manuscripts to how he became an agent. For more about Terry, visit his agent profile here.

A few of the things he said:
“Publishing is not a selection process but a survival one.”

“A good book is not enough. We [agents and editors] are looking for exceptional. That’s why 80% of all submissions get rejected.”

“The difference between a good and a great book is flow. You may not have everything in its proper place.”

The other class I was able to attend was author Judy Christie’s “Build a Better Writing Life.” Judy is from Louisiana like me and we hit it off right away, especially since I was reading a copy of her book, “Gone to Green.” She’s super nice and so encouraging. To check out her books and writing tips, go here.

Louisiana author Judy Christie and I with her book, "Gone to Green"
Some things she said:
“You must acknowledge ‘writing’ as a priority in your life and carve out time for it, then stick to it.”

“To keep organized, it’s good to identify your writing goal by keeping some sort of a journal or notebook and list every writing project you have.”

“How to become a consistent writer involves figuring out when you write, recording how much you write and having accountability.”

“If you’re not excited about writing a book, then you need to rethink writing it.”

Tips for Attending Your First Writers Conference/s
Attending writers conference can be overwhelming. I would suggest that before attending a larger one like the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference you look for smaller ones in the surrounding area. I have also attended the Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was wonderful.

A good piece of advice that Terry Burns gave first-time conference goers was that you must develop a “filter” to only take in the limited amount of information you need at this particular part of your writing journey, because you can easily be overwhelmed and miss what you need to know right now.

Interested in Attending?

The East Texas Christian Writers Conference is held each year on the last weekend in October at the East Texas Baptist University campus in Marshall. On Friday, there is a pre-conference with a two-hour workshop and dinner with a keynote speaker, plus the opportunity to mingle with presenters and fellow attendees before the full day of the conference, which is on Saturday. The pre-conference event costs extra, yet--even with the full conference--the cost is just over $100. That’s what I call “bang for your buck.” If you have not checked this conference out, check out the website at

My First Giveaway
The Giveaway Winner - Sarah Hudson Pierce

I had another great first experience as well with my first ever giveaway for this blog. I held a drawing for a basket filled with all kinds of travel-related goodies: a journal, book lovers calendar and snacks from around the world. Sarah Hudson Pierce was the winner!

My Giveaway Table :)


  1. Hi, Morgan! I enjoyed your recap of the conference. It was my first, but it won't be my last! I loved every minute of it. Thank you for posting some high points of advise these speakers gave us. I'm looking forward to the conference next year, and hopefully having a suitable manuscript ready by then.
    I enjoyed meeting you, by the way, and I enjoy reading your blog.

    1. Hi!

      Thanks so much for visiting and for your comment. I clicked on your user name and I'm sorry to say I don't know who this is. There was no name with your profile. So please comment back and let me know who you are. :)

      I'm glad you stopped in and enjoyed the conference recap. I can't wait for next year either. To receive my blog updates, you can subscribe by email if you'd like to.

      Well hope you have a great week!

  2. Sounds like a great conference. It's nowhere near me, but the cost is affordable, so I might be able to swing travel too.

    1. Hi Cheryl!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. :) It is a very nice conference. Another nice one I have been to is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in June and it's only $100 too.

      Where do you live? Is Alabama closer for you? If you have any questions, etc. please feel free to email me (

      Well, I'll see you around Books & Such blog and hopefully here again too. Have a nice day!


  3. Came over from Books and Such. Thanks! I enjoyed this.

    1. Hi Sally! Thanks so much for stopping by! :) Glad you enjoyed it. Have a fantastic weekend!

  4. Great article, thank you. I signed up to your blog rss feed.

    1. Thank you!! And thanks for stopping in and commenting! :)

  5. What a great idea, Morgan--to post highlights from what you learned at a conference! I might have to try that sometime--it would help me process and remember things, for one thing. :) Congratulations on being a presenter, too!

    1. Hi Kiersti! Thank you!! :) And congrats on the award nomination!!

  6. Morgan! What a great recap?! I wish I would have read your post before I decided to jump in the deep end and attend ACFW as my first writer's conference. Silly me!

    I LOVE what Terry Burns said about filtering what I need right now. That's key. Thanks a bunch for sharing with us! Blessings...Simone